Commuters may see longer waits for buses if Covid-19 clusters at bus interchanges worsen

Contingency plans are in place to lengthen the intervals between bus services if more bus drivers are affected.
Contingency plans are in place to lengthen the intervals between bus services if more bus drivers are affected.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - Commuters may have to wait longer for buses if Covid-19 clusters at public bus interchanges continue to grow, though the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said there is no major impact on bus operations for now.

At a briefing on Thursday (Sept 2) on the clusters, the authority said contingency plans are in place to lengthen the intervals between bus services - starting with routes with the lowest demand - if more bus drivers are affected.

These plans were worked out with the public transport operators before the pandemic, for cases of severe manpower disruption.

As at Wednesday, 284 front-line staff at bus interchanges have tested positive for Covid-19. Another 200 or so staff are in quarantine.

These together amount to less than 5 per cent of the 11,000 front-line staff in the bus sector, the LTA noted.

"Any lengthening of bus service headways required will be progressive, starting with low-demand bus services to minimise the impact on commuters," the LTA said.

The Straits Times understands that at least one service is already running at longer intervals.

Bus controllers will adjust the bus schedules as needed, which could lead to commuters waiting five to 10 minutes longer.

LTA chief executive Ng Lang said the more stringent measures announced on Thursday prioritise the safety of bus drivers.

"What has changed in this situation now is that fact that we have more Covid-19 cases and the variant is a lot more transmissible. The workers are very much like us, they are members of the community, and they are exposed to the same risks," he said.

Some of the foreign bus drivers stay together in rented flats, and ST understands that there are no plans as of now to make adjustments to where and how workers live.

Such living arrangements are also in place in other industries. For instance, some foreign nurses and hawkers from other countries also stay in rented flats.